VARIOUS ARTISTS 15 Years In An Open "Boat" On-U Sound/Virgin CDV 2833

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The likes of Oakenfold and Weatherall may be better known for their remixes and indie/dance crossovers, but it's arguable that without the pioneering work of Adrian Sherwood through the Eighties and Nineties, dubwise production would never have secured quite as firm a hold within the UK music business.

Sherwood's On-U Sound label released a series of albums and 10-inch "dub plates" which were mainly ignored at the time of their release; only agit- rapper Gary Clail enjoyed any notable chart success, through his single "Human Nature". This extraordinary double-CD set documents a decade and a half of inspired subversion in dub and industrial music scenes, with On-U house band Tackhead playing in a variety of guises, and luminaries from reggae and indie genres offering some of their least compromising work. Take the opening track here, Prince Far I's "Virgin" from 1982, with the rapping Prince denouncing his former record label (ironically, the same one involved in this reissue): "You call yourself Branson," he booms, "but Branson is a pickle with no place on my plate!". Former Pop Group singer Mark Stewart's version of William Blake's "Jerusalem" offers a crude dubscape every bit as serrated as his earlier records, not even bothering to time-stretch the brass-band sample to the same tempo as the groove.

Sherwood's work here is routinely ahead of its time, in terms of both sound and method. He pre-dates today's sampling outfits, for instance, by including copious chunks of a speech by Einstein in African Head Charge's "Language And Mentality"; elsewhere, in the Barmy Army's Kenny Dalglish tribute "Sharp As A Needle", the football commentary and the crowd singing of "Abide With Me" are stirred into the kind of loping funk groove Black Grape have since made a career out of: it still stands head and shoulders above all other football records, including the ubiquitous "Three Lions".